The final pairing is set for the 2014 ACC Tournament, and it will feature the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers against the Duke Blue Devils (1:00 p.m., ESPN). Saturday’s semifinals followed a scintillating quarterfinal round featuring three fantastic finishes. Though the semis lacked Friday’s magical performances, the level of play from all four teams showed why the ACC has returned to its place at the top of the college basketball heap.
Virginia pushes past Pittsburgh, 51-48
The problem for any team facing Pittsburgh this year has been the Panthers’ extraordinary strength and athleticism. Both attributes can mask skill deficiencies, keeping them in games against favored opponents. When used against inferior teams, Pitt can simply curb-stomp you back to the team bus (Hi, Wake).
Against Virginia in game one, the Panthers again rode the backs of Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson (15 points apiece), and won the rebounding battle 29-27. The game was nip-and-tuck throughout, but shots just didn't go down when the Panthers needed them to and Virginia advanced 51-48.
The Panthers shot 36.7 percent for the game, while Virginia managed 46.7 percent. In fact, that statistic, along with the final score, were the only two stat lines that the Wahoos won (the latter, I’ve heard, is the more important one). The ‘Hoos had three players in double figures, led by Joe Harris’ 12 points and 10 apiece from Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill. Despite leading his team in scoring Saturday, Harris will need to have a much better effort in Sunday’s final if he hopes to cut down the nets.
"It’s certainly a great opportunity," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "To advance into the championship game and, you know, this is what it’s about. Such a prestigious event."
Duke outlasts N.C. State, 75-67
It took three games on Friday for the Greensboro Coliseum to become a sweltering gym, but on Saturday it only took one. Not only was the temperature elevated when N.C. State and Duke took the floor, so was the quality of play. Fans of all teams involved (and everyone else) gleefully anticipated the duel between Jabari Parker and T.J. Warren.
Warren started as hot as the arena, scoring 11 points in the game’s first 11 minutes. Parker seemed to match him shot-for-shot, as the teams traded the lead back-and-forth -- eight times in all. Eventually, it was neither player who factored into the deciding moments of the game.
N.C. State held its own, especially in the first half, thanks to outstanding play from Anthony Barber (Cat) and Jordan Vandenberg. One stat stood out more than others, though. At one point late in the first half, the Wolfpack were shooting 70 percent from the floor, and trailing by a point.
Duke had four players in double figures, led by Parker’s 20 points. State’s Warren (21 points) was one of three players with double-digit scoring for the Pack. The game ball, however, should go to Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon for his aggressiveness in getting the ball time and again to the rim, scoring 16 points. Duke guard Rodney Hood, tasked with guarding Warren for most of the afternoon, chipped in 14 points despite foul trouble.
In the end, basic math decided the game as three points is still more than two. Duke made seven of 17 threes for the game, while State managed only two. It wasn't for lack of trying, though. Pack guard Ralston Turner took 10 threes in all, making two. Poor shot selection and a failure to take advantage of Duke’s foul trouble led to a 75-67 Blue Devil win, which sets up the championship final.
"I thought maybe we got tired in the second half," State coach Mark Gottfried said after the game. "We didn’t seem as fresh as we have been. The three-point shooting, I thought, was a difference. They stepped up and made a number of them and we couldn’t seem to make any."
Quote of the day:
Reporter: "You jumped my question, actually."
K: "This is part of what I’m doing. I’m going through stuff like this to try to anticipate. My wife says I do this all the time to her. Would you like to meet her? So now you have something in common."
This, after a reporter apparently was going to ask about Rodney Hood’s defense on Warren.
Best of the Twitter Machine
Like a wine glass on a Tempurpedic mattress, UVa's game is steady and unwavering, no matter how much Pitt tries to bounce and shake it.— Mark Thompson (@mthompsonNR) March 15, 2014
Seeing Duke in white/blue unis makes you wish the Pack jerseys simply said "State" across the chest. Classic Tobacco Road.— Pack Pride (@PackPride) March 15, 2014